Bill takes aim at image-based abuse

New law would introduce fines for so-called ‘revenge porn’

Under legislation proposed by the government, social networking services and web hosts could face fines if they fail to remove intimate images shared without the subject’s consent (so-called ‘revenge porn).

The Enhancing Online Safety (Non-consensual Sharing of Intimate Images) Bill 2017 introduces a complaints regime administered by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

(The government in November last year announced that it would rename the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to reflect a broadening of the agency’s role.)

The proposed legislation will target both individuals who share images and content hosts that fail to remove such images when alerted to them. Individuals could face fines of up to $105,000, while businesses could face fines of up to $525,000.

The eSafety Commissioner will be able to issue removal notices, giving a service 48 hours (or potentially longer based on a decision by the commissioner) to remove an image.

There are some exceptions to the regime: An image may be an “exempt post” if it is posted by law enforcement for the purposes of an investigation, for example, or is “for a genuine medical or scientific purpose”.

“Civil penalties will make people stop and think before distributing intimate images without consent — whether that’s an ex‑partner of a victim seeking revenge, an acquaintance or complete stranger being malicious,” communications minister Mitch Fifield said.

“Perpetrators will still be subject to criminal prosecution but victims can choose to pursue civil penalties instead, and won’t have to involve the police if they don’t want to.”

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